May 22, 2014 10:54 pm

A Teacher Writes to Her Congressman: #TESTHearingsNow

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Our friend Alice Mercer, a dedicated and seasoned teacher who lives near Sacramento, CA took up NPE’s call for Congressional Hearings. Alice wrote a letter to her Congressman and dropped it off at his office. She included important information about her professional and personal experiences with testing. Here are some suggestions directly from Alice for teachers who would like to take part in our campaign. At the bottom of the page is the text of Alice’s letter that you may wish to use as a model for your own letter.

  • A handwritten letter gives a personal touch and shows effort on the part of the writer. It will get your letter noticed when piles of computer generated letters and emails are pouring in.
  • Make sure you tell your Congress member that you know these things to be true because you are a classroom teacher.
  • Make your points clear. An anecdote can be helpful, but be sure to keep it short. Try to stay within one page typed, or two pages if you write big and skip lines like I did.
  • Writing a letter like this is NO time for modesty. Include your many years of teaching experience, being Teacher of the Year, or being National Board Certified. In my letter, I told them I was a CTA State Council member. In my discussions with a staffer, I told him I was on the Political Involvement Committee of my local organization.
  • When I dropped off the letter, I was told that it will be forwarded on to a staffer who takes care of education in the D.C. office. This is typical. It is why it was more important to discuss my credentials with the staffer taking the letter, rather than the points in the letter – since he likely knows little about education.

Remember that anyone can take part in our letter writing campaign. If you are not able to drop off a letter at your Congress member’s office, or if you prefer to use our letter, you can send it to our friends in Washington, DC at the Institute for America’s Future. We will collect letters from our Friends and Allies and deliver them to Congress.If you would like NPE to print out a letter with your information and submit it as part of our Call for Hearings, you can fill in this form. Keep an eye out for an announcement about our delivery to Congress!

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April 18, 2014

Dear Representative Matsui,

I am a public school teacher, and an elected representative to CTAs State Council, the governance body for the union, on which I serve on the Assessment and Testing Committee.

I am writing to you today to call on you and the rest of Congress to hold hearings on the misuse and abuse of standardized tests, commonly referred to as high-stakes testing.

In my experience as a classroom teacher and union representative, testing has taken on too much importance in our public schools. Testing is not teaching or learning, but is being treated as though it is. It is driving instruction in a way that is not healthy or helpful for students or the communities in which they live.

As a nation, we need to take a long, hard look at what is happening. Our communities deserve better. Our children deserve better. Let’s do what’s right and have this long needed discussion.


Alice Mercer